1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 4: Help

I would not be where I am, 1,000 days into freedom, without help from others in my life.

I’m fortunate to have these people in my life. They have helped me in more ways than I can really even count. Whether it’s listening to me vent, helping me with medical problems, or getting me through tough days, these people have made a huge impact on me getting this far.

I wanted to recognize them, so I got three blue starfish shells. Starfish have multiple arms to help support them. They need them in order to survive. Blue starfish also have their own unique defense system that helps them survive from predators. I found it similar to how my support system helps me defend myself from people and things that hurt me.

On one, I put the names of my parts on each arm of the starfish. I couldn’t fit all of the names of my system on one starfish, so I put them in groups. I recognized K, even in her absence; I know she did a lot for me before I even knew she existed. I acknowledged Charlie and Violet, who have come to the forefront to keep us going, even when it was hard. I thanked my younger parts, many of whom hold trauma for me and for us. Without my parts, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be functioning as I have.

On another starfish, I put the names of the therapists and doctors who have been there for me as I struggled through PHP and IOP. I spent five days a week with them for ten or so of the last 15 months. They helped me find a stable place to live, and even though we hit a few bumps on the road, we got there. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own. They pushed me to make doctor’s appointments and reach out for support when I needed it. The psychiatrist worked with me through all of my medication reactions (and there were quite a few), and never seemed to give up even when I wanted to throw in the towel. The nurse was there for me through all of my medical issues; she was the first person to legitimize that what I was going through was real. She and my therapist helped me through my pregnancy and abortion, without judgment, and helped me see that I was making the right decision. My therapist sat with me and let me cry when I needed to. She told me it was okay to feel. She dealt with me when others would have given up.

I went through some of the most difficult struggles in those months, and they were there for me through it all, and helped me through the darkness when I thought I would be stuck there forever.

On the last starfish, I wrote the names of those involved most closely in my life. My therapists, both new and old. My best friend, who I’ve known for half of my life. Even though we’ve never actually met in person, she has been the voice of reason for me in a lot of situations. She also never fails to make me laugh. My friend who took me in when I was homeless, who has made sure I always have what I need, who has consistently reminded me that I am safe, and who has taught me what it’s like to experience a normal life. My online supports, who not only give me an outlet, but many were also there for me when I escaped, encouraging me not to give up and give in. The people I met through work and therapy, who have since become friends. They’ve been there for me, they’ve made me laugh and cry, and they’ve managed to deal with me quite well, as I know I can be hard to deal with sometimes.

These people are important to me, and will continue to be important to me, even if we don’t see each other. Their words and actions have impacted me in ways that will last a long time. They’ve helped me decipher the lies and discover the truth, and for that I am forever thankful.

(I did not show the names for privacy reasons)

Disconnection

It’s difficult. The seemingly simultaneous wish to be alone and with someone at the same time. It doesn’t make sense.

I am lonely. And that’s dangerous. Because I have a tendency to make choices that aren’t always the best.

I miss people back home. It’s been so difficult to maintain relationships with people I no longer see face-to-face. For nearly two years now, I’ve been gone. It was okay in the beginning. Friends still called, still sent texts. A couple of people even traveled to come and see me.

But it’s not like that now. No one calls anymore. No one visits. I barely get text messages, and most of the time, it’s me making the effort to message first. Sometimes I don’t even get an answer. Sometimes I get frustrated by the people who do answer, and I ask myself why I keep reaching out when it only ends in frustration and pain. But I still keep reaching out, because I don’t have anyone else.

It’s just frustrating, because I feel like it’s me that always has to put in the effort. If someone back home wants to see me, it’s expected that I be the one to go up there. I don’t even know where to start on the multiple ways that is difficult for me. It’s a huge risk for me to even be in the vicinity of my mother. Since her veiled death threats, I have never been back. I don’t know what she is capable of, and I don’t know who is still on her side.

Not to mention I don’t even drive. It takes hours just to get there. It costs money I don’t have.

But I still wanted so badly to go back. I wanted to see the people I knew as my friends for so long. I wasn’t thinking about the risks. I just wanted to go. And I was going to go. Until those closest to me reminded me that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. For one reason, safety. I can’t guarantee that someone won’t see me and immediately contact my mother to tell her I’m in the area. And for another reason, my emotional state. Just being in those familiar places is enough to induce panic, and if something did happen, I’m not sure I am in the best place to handle it. And it’s not fair to the others around me to have to deal with the aftermath that it might bring.

So I told my friend I wouldn’t be able to make it up there. I told him that collectively, we didn’t think it was a good idea. Before I even responded with an explanation, he asked if it was because of my heart. Oh, right. That. An issue that never even crossed my mind. I forget that I’m sick sometimes. It’s been okay because I rarely stray from home. Even when I am alone, I can pass out safely on the carpet and get up and go about my day. And even when I do leave the house, I am with people who know me, who literally catch me before I fall. I won’t have that there. If I passed out in that neighborhood, I’d be lucky if no one stole the shoes off my feet.

But instead of feeling better, his acknowledgement only fueled my anger. You know it’s not safe for me there. You know what my mother sent to me. And you know I’m not really healthy. And yet it’s still on me. I need to make the effort. I need to put all of the work in. I need to make the moves.

I’m tired of putting in all of the effort for people who don’t put in any effort for me. It hurts. I realize that our lives are not the same anymore. I realize that I was the one that moved away. But I had to make that choice to save myself.

I’m not asking for much. A birthday card, a Christmas card, a visit once or twice a year. Something. But I end up with nothing. Nothing but disappointment. Nothing but complete disconnection. Nothing but anger when I see the times that people are just a short drive away from me, and yet they never visit.

It’s isolating. It feels like I am the one who’s done wrong.

But I can’t give these relationships up. I can’t tell my friend I can’t go through with all of it anymore. I can’t make that last severance with my remaining family. I just can’t do it. But I am the one that suffers. I’m the one that constantly gets hurt. I am the one that still feels disconnected.

I wish I could say I can move on. In my mind, I know these relationships aren’t what they used to be. They aren’t good anymore. But my heart doesn’t get that message. My heart longs for the connection we used to have, the connection that just doesn’t exist anymore, and likely never will.

I know I can replace friendships in my new life here. I made friends at work, but now that I’m gone it’s not the same anymore. I acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation,  that it probably pushes them away more than it would in normal circumstances. It sucks, but I had to choose a place to live and a safer life over the job I loved, which also happened to be the only place where I fit in.

I’m not like other people my age. I have trouble relating to them. I’m not a parent, I’m not married, and I don’t have a career. I don’t go out. I don’t like most things. I avoid most women like the plague because I am scared of them.

I’m also a 31 year-old with the body of a senior citizen and the soul of a child. It’s hard to meet people who understand that, and who accept that is who I am and who I will be.

I know I have people here that care about me. I know I can connect with them. But it’s still not the same. I still miss those pieces of my old life. I still miss my family. Those are people who can’t be replaced.

Strings

I feel like a marionette. Each string is a connection to my life, a piece of who I am. I need those strings to perform. I need those strings to live. But those strings are thin and weak; they started out that way. I started my life out with a disadvantage. 

But I continued to perform, I continued to live even with those weak strings. Now I’ve lost so many strings that all I can do is sit there and twitch a few limbs, waiting for that last string to break, the moment when I lose myself completely.

Some of my strings, I cut away myself. I had to. My parents were not supportive strings. They had to go. They were taking complete control over everything. The other strings couldn’t work right. I needed some freedom. 

In doing that, I weakened some of my other strings. The strings of people who I thought were there for me, they ended up snapping. They were only helping me alongside my parents’ strings. Once my parents’ strings were gone, so too were those others.

And then the strings of people in my old life, my friends and acquaintances. I feel them weakening as time goes on. Some of them have broken already. Some are splintering, seconds away from complete disconnection. I look up and see the damage, but there’s nothing I can do. So I have to watch as my strings continue to break away.

The strings of people I called my family – they are weakening, too; they were weak this whole time. I’m seeing now that those strings are not supporting me. They are there. I can see them. Everyone on the outside can see them. They appear to be strong, maybe a little colorful, but it’s all for show. They are not doing anything for me. They’re just there.

There’s one strong string. That is the string of my therapist. She’s holding me upright, even as all of the strings around me are snapping and breaking away.

But now that I’ve lost all of my other strings, all of my other resources, And I have nothing left to help her; I have nothing else left to help me.

Soon, that string will be cut from me. And I will have nothing. My supports will be gone, and nothing will be there to hold me up anymore. So I’ll fall to the ground, limp and lifeless.

I’ll no longer have a purpose.

Christmas

In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I have decided to spend Christmas with a friend from back where I came from.

I’ll be taking a train for the first time tomorrow morning, so that in itself is a little anxiety-provoking for me. This will also be the first time going back to that place and seeing someone from my old life, so I’m not sure how I will be emotionally. I am hoping I will be able to manage everything well.

I think I overpacked. It’s really only for two days, but I’m overly cautious. I also packed some comfort items, and things the other parts of me may want: my bedtime story, a coloring book and colored pencils, Courage (the stuffed lion my therapist gave me), and a notebook to scribble our thoughts in. I can’t possibly fit anymore in my bag. Poor courage is hanging out of the front pocket because my bag is so full.

I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m scared. I’m a little bit of everything right now. I just hope this doesn’t turn into a disaster.

Missing pieces

When I first moved here, I would go out on my back porch every night and sit and look at the stars. It was something I was never able to do back home. There was just something so amazing about looking into a vast sky with millions (billions?) of stars, wondering how many people were out there looking at the same stars as I was. But I don’t go out on the porch at night anymore, and I stopped looking at the stars.

In the beginning, I was full of hope and excitement, and running on a rush of adrenaline. Now, I’m coming to realize all that I’ve lost along the way during this transition. Pieces of me are missing. I feel incomplete.

It may be hard for some to understand, but when I was at home, I always held out hope that someday something would change…that someday, my family would become different people and the void in my heart would be filled and I would finally be whole. But now that I’ve moved away, I’ve lost that chance forever. I’ve been trying to fill the void with things that just can’t occupy that space in someone’s heart that is meant for family. I left them. I walked away and I took that chance to fill that void away from myself for good.

It’s not just the loss of my parents. It’s the loss of my entire family. It will never be the same again. I can never see my grandmother; she’s already fallen for their lies about me. My brother is too far brainwashed. Other members of my family don’t want to get involved. They don’t come to visit me, even if they are a quick drive away. I feel incredibly isolated from the people I should be closest to. Your family makes up part of your identity. So what do you do when that part of you is gone? I don’t even feel like I belong in this name anymore.

Then there are my friends. The ones I was closest to back home. The ones that now barely reach out to me, and the ones that haven’t bothered to visit me. I can feel what were once my strongest relationships now fading farther and farther away into the distance. I didn’t expect our friendships to remain the same, but I didn’t expect them to grow so far apart so quickly, either.

Then there are the quiet supporter friends: the ones that support me in private, but when I need them to stand up and fight with me, they are nowhere to be found. Then I am left alone to fight battles I don’t want to fight. It reminds me of the people in my life that knew I was being abused and chose to do nothing because they “didn’t want to get involved.” Not getting involved never solves anything.

People have changed the way they treat me. I’m not a child. I’m not made of glass that can be easily broken at the slightest touch. I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions. I haven’t been able to make real decisions for the last 29 years of my life. Now I want to make them. I need to learn for myself how to make them. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t all good; no one’s decisions are all good. That’s called life. I’m no different from anyone else; I just have a little catching up to do.

It’s a little sad that the only person that I’ve come to depend on (aside from my therapist) is my roommate. My roommate…a woman I met off of Craigslist right before I moved. She barely knows me. She has no obligation to know me. Yet hers is the shoulder I cry on when I become overwhelmed. She is the one who holds my arms down when I dissociate and start scratching myself. And she is the one who sits with me when I don’t feel safe enough to be alone. She, a person unrelated to me and completely unknown to me until a few months ago, now burdened with dealing with me.

The nights that my roommate is not here, I have no one. Those nights are the worst for me; tonight is one of those nights. I often wonder if this is what my life will be like forever. Loneliness. Even Charlie is quiet. It makes me miss his angry ramblings just a little. He probably feels just as lonely as I do.

For so long, I defined myself based on the relationships I had with others. It was part of who I was. Those relationships mattered. And now those pieces of me are going missing, and I don’t know what to do. No family, dwindling friendships, and a lack of identity. I feel empty. It’s no wonder I don’t know who my parts really are. I don’t even know who I am.

A need for connection

Some days are harder than others.

Some days, I make it through the day without thinking much about home.  Other days, like today, I think about the people I’ve left behind…and it makes me sad.  I feel completely alone here.

While I do keep in contact with my best friend, it’s just not the same.  We talk on the phone once a week and text a few times in between phone calls.  My other friend from work has remained distant; aside from a few texts, we rarely talk.  I am too afraid to reach out anymore than I have.  I don’t want to push people into something they are not comfortable with, considering they work with my mother.  But for a long time, these two people were my only source of meaningful human contact.  We would exchange hugs every day when I got to work, and then again when I left.  I needed that comfort, that affection, that connection because it was something I had never had before.  And now I am back to not having it.  Sometimes I think about dropping everything and getting on a train and going back to see them, even if it’s just for five minutes, even if it’s just for a hug.  But I know I can’t do that.  I can’t go back.  And that hurts.

Last week, I became so lonely that I started talking to random strangers on the internet.  One of the conversations seemed genuine so I decided to meet him.  I just wanted to talk to someone face-to-face.  It wound up being a horrible experience and I ended up at a place I didn’t know at three o’clock in the morning with a guy who refused to take me home unless I gave him what he wanted.  Once I managed to get home, I walked in the door and immediately broke down crying.  I can’t blame anybody but myself.  I am ashamed that I even thought anything good would have come out of that.

In therapy today, I talked a lot about my strained relationships with my two friends.  Then I disclosed what had happened a few days earlier with the random internet stranger.  When she asked why I did it, I told her I needed to connect with someone.  I needed to connect face-to-face, not over text or phone conversation.  It’s just not the same.  At that point, I didn’t care who it was; I needed it that bad.  At the end of our session, my therapist asked if she could give me a hug.  I tried so hard to hold back my tears.  I didn’t want her to let go.  For that minute, I felt comfortable.  I needed it.  She knew I needed it, too.

I’ve spent the last few hours crying to myself.  I feel like I am grieving the loss of so many relationships; the relationships with my family (which weren’t good anyway) and the relationships with my friends (which are slowly fading away).  As much as I try to pretend like I don’t need people, I really do.  I wish I didn’t have to abandon everything and everyone I knew.  It’s not fair.  While I may be safe, I am so incredibly alone.